A devastating cure: Weighing liberties, security in the age of coronavirus

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy!

In the future, when we remember the liberties we once had and explain to our grandchildren why we surrendered them, some old man will slowly look down at his shoes and mutter, “We did it out of an abundance of caution.”

The global Coronavirus pandemic is a severe health concern that requires a response from our government. We need our government to aggressively work toward a vaccine and treatments, inform the public with the latest prevention methods, act to provide resources where needed, and provide the legal and regulatory safety net for the private sector to join in the fight. We do not need or want our government to arbitrarily suppress our civil rights, undermine the rule of law, and intentionally destroy our economy and our livelihoods.

It is breathtaking the speed at which our government leaders resorted to totalitarian extremes to combat the spread of a disease. The government ordered thousands and thousands of businesses to close indefinitely. This has forced millions of people out of work. Many of them do not have the financial cushion to get by without an income for weeks on end. Many small-business owners are losing their life’s work and their families’ entire net worth by order of the government.

With millions of people are struggling to get by, the inevitable wave of foreclosures and bankruptcies will follow. The government may try to halt this by decree or throw stimulus money at the problem, but the financial realities make the long-term impact of these decisions unavoidable.

Meanwhile, some governments are ordering people to remain home, forbidding people from assembling, and even closing churches. In California, people who are caught outside of their homes for nonessential reasons are subject to arrest, fines, and imprisonment for violating the order. At the same time, jury trials (a constitutionally protected right) are being postponed, elections are being delayed, prisoners are being released, and the government is ignoring private contracts — for example, the government ordering that landlords can’t evict people — in lieu of the judgment of politicians.

The impact is more than just financial or an inconvenience. The government restrictions have caused a massive shortage in donated blood for hospitals, crime is sure to rise, people are postponing necessary medical care for fear of leaving their homes, and an increase in depression, addiction, and suicide will result from mass unemployment and economic destruction.

Americans should be following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to maintain a physical distance from others, cover sneezes, avoid touching faces, wash hands, sanitize surfaces, and reduce unnecessary travel. But there is an abyss between free Americans taking steps to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus of their own free will and our government using police power to enforce those steps. In most cases, it is a single man — a governor — making these incredible decisions to upend our lives.

If the response to Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that our government officials will strip us of our liberties at a moment’s notice on the justification that it is for our own good. Instead of relying on the collective wisdom of a billion individual decisions made by free people, our government officials instantly supplanted their own judgment for that of the people they were elected to represent. They immediately assumed that they know better and are not only empowered, but obligated, to micromanage our lives “out of an abundance of caution.” And then, when the inevitable negative effects are being felt, these same people will mortgage our grandchildren’s future too with another boondoggle trillion dollar stimulus.

This is a very old debate about the balance of government power between liberty and safety. The way in which so many Americans surrendered their liberty for the dubious promise of safety with little more than a shrug and a muffled bleat is testament to how far we have strayed from our roots. For all of the “don’t tread on me” stickers and “live free or die” machismo, too many Americans have become fat and docile.

Coronavirus will ravage the world and leave devastation in its wake, but we will find workable treatments and a vaccine. It will pass. The devastation to our economy and liberties will be far longer lasting.

13 Responses to A devastating cure: Weighing liberties, security in the age of coronavirus

  1. jjf says:

    And to think it was only a few years ago, giving more power to the Governor was a great idea.

  2. steveegg says:

    A minor counterpoint – most of the ratchet-tightenings arguably came as responses to the mass of #undefeated openly flouting earlier guidelines, and in some cases, early bans on mass gatherings.  That is the problem of having to rule to the lowest common denominator.

    That said, given the ratchet-tightenings have come mostly from Madison in a one-size-fits-all manner, the capricious scope of the coming lockdown, the attempt by the DPW to use this as an excuse to judicially eliminate all safeguards for absentee voting, and the (likely-successful) attempt by Congressional Rats to take this (and I quote House Democrat Whip James Clyburn) “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision”, it is beyond disturbing.

  3. Le Roi du Nord says:

    jjf:

    Exactly.  Funny how things change based only on a R or D after the name.,

  4. Jason says:

    >And to think it was only a few years ago, giving more power to the Governor was a great idea.

    >Exactly.  Funny how things change based only on a R or D after the name.,

     

    No one here has ever agreed with you two knuckleheads that more power was indeed given to the Governor, and if it actually had been, that it would have been considered “good” by the readers here.  So keep perpetuating your alternative opinions as fact, while hypocritically claiming to only want the Truth.

     

    Pass.

  5. jjf says:

    Jason, the WisGOP itself, Vos and Fitz, explained it to the public as giving more power to the Governor.  And then they took it away when they saw a D coming.  You have a different explanation?

  6. Owen Owen says:

    Funny how you assume I was just talking about Democrats or Evers. Nowhere in my column did I specify. Nor did I specify federal or state. That was on purpose. We are seeing this as a bipartisan, multi-level government issue. The only mention of a state was California, and that was just for example purposes.

  7. jjf says:

    It’s much easier to be nebulous when writing a column.

    I liked the “fat and docile” line.  You should put that on an AFP WI postcard.

  8. dad29 says:

    Clearly, Jiffy is becoming un-moored and wound a bit tight.

  9. Tuerqas says:

    Funny how you assume I was just talking about Democrats or Evers. Nowhere in my column did I specify. Nor did I specify federal or state. That was on purpose. We are seeing this as a bipartisan, multi-level government issue. The only mention of a state was California, and that was just for example purposes.

    I noticed that, being one of those few who are evenly disgusted with both Rs and Ds.  I didn’t think it was nebulous at all.

    And that you specifically wrote an article on the Texan Reps play against abortions.  One of the reasons I always liked your blog better than any other is that you don’t usually just brush faux conservatism under the rug.  This power grab is 100% bi-partisan.

    If anyone is wondering about that; I am conservative, and therefore (by any measure OTHER than “compared to Democrats”) I am anti-Republican.

  10. jjf says:

    See, Tuerqas, being nebulous means you don’t have to criticize Our Dear Orange Leader, so you don’t p-o the followers.

    You are correct.  The raid of the money printing presses is bipartisan.  Just mint a few more $1T coins.  Give him all the oversight over $500B or so, it’ll be fine.

  11. Tuerqas says:

    So, your belief that there is no such thing as a non-partisan person, or a even just a non-partisan article is that solid?  Very sad, but I believe you believe it.  That is what fear politics has brought us to.

    Personally I believe the opposite, there is little that should NOT be laid on the bi-partisan doorstep.

  12. jjf says:

    No, I’d say I generally agree with you that many of the problems you see in government are present in the actions of both parties.  Each party has its own specialities, of course.  And no, I don’t think this makes them morally equivalent on all measures.

    Some people are deliberate political operatives.  Some aren’t.  I like to think there are plenty of people who strive for a fair representation of the news.

    Writing opinion is another matter.

  13. Tuerqas says:

    Each party has its own specialities, of course.  And no, I don’t think this makes them morally equivalent on all measures.

    Agreed, more or less.  In fact, on many of the issues they appear on opposite sides of any moral equivalency.  That doesn’t stop both sides from dipping into the power whether they are playing martyrs or conquerors.  Both sides will, at some point, rage about the abuses or stupidity or irresponsibility of both sides of any issue, but in the background, both sides will be taking advantage of the abuse… or the stupidity… or the irresponsibility to get power or votes or money.

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